Dell still trying to shake old PC-only image

As Dell continues to roll out its 'transform, connect, inform, and protect' strategy, the company is striving to be recognised as an end to end solutions provider -- not just a PC provider.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Driving consistent momentum is what Dell has prided itself on since beginning its shift from a hardware-only company towards an end to end solutions provider, according to Amit Midha, Dell Asia Pacific president.

Speaking to ZDNet ahead of Dell World 2015, Midha said the company, which celebrated its first year of privatisation last year, has been making solid progress in aligning the company's future strategy to four customer imperatives -- transform, connect, inform, and protect -- a strategy that was outlined by founder and chief executive Michael Dell last year.

However, he admitted that the company still has a way to go, noting that Dell isn't immediately recognised in the market as a security provider, or as a managed service provider.

"I think we clearly have to communicate our end to end message of security integration, cloud, future-ready infrastructure, software-defined infrastructure; all of these messages are not easily understood by companies so we have more work to do," he said.

"This is something we're clearly concerned by as well, but just like Dell as a company was built, we didn't build this company on a big marketing campaign, we went and talked to one customer at a time, and that's exactly what we're doing in security."

In fact, Midha claimed that Dell currently handles more than 100 billion online security incidents, and several trillion dollars worth of financial assets.

"There is no company that comes close to this cyber security presence," he said.

Midha also said that Dell has become the number one player in thin-client security, which he said is the "most secure way you can access information sitting in the datacentre".

The results of Dell's efforts have, however, started to show. Despite the fact the company dismissed 15,000 staff worldwide last February, Midha said Dell is experiencing positive results today, and it's starting to reinvest that back into the business.

"Since our momentum is strong we are investing in the business. We hired 300-plus people and we've added more people, which we haven't disclosed but we will continue to invest more in the business," he said.

He added that while the PC market will experience short-term challenges, the company continues to gain share in the PC market, which has contributed to the company experiencing quarter on quarter growth for 10 quarters in a row in its "connected" business, with Midha confident that it will become 11 positive quarters by the end of the current quarter.

To drive the business' continued PC momentum, come Dell World 2015, the company will announce the big brother of SPX13, the SPX15. Earlier this year, Dell also refreshed its two-in-one line with the new Inspiron laptops, and its desktop PC lineup.

"PC market is going through consolidation, and we believe that we'll continue to lead that consolidation as a top three player. I believe that this trend will last another two to three years," Midha said.

Equally, Midha claimed the company's "inform" business has been succeeding, noting it shipped 3.6 exabyates of storage last quarter -- the equivalent of IBM, Hitachi and NetApp combined.

"We are number one in the software defined storage, and we're going to continue to lead the way. So you can see the first piece of inform has to be appropriate data management and storage, and the ability to bring data together faster," he said.

Additionally, the company announced in September that as part of its "in China, for China" strategy, it will be investing $125 billion over the next five to seven years into expanding its business in China, specifically on R&D, services, and procurement. China is the company's second largest market.

"The last time we disclosed revenue numbers was that it was a $5 billion business in China. From that perspective, we feel pretty good with being number one in server, we're comfortable on the PC side, and what we said was the next state of evolution for us is localisation: how can we engage local companies, how can we bring more local solutions, how can we have local advisory board, all of those pieces," he said.

"Part of this is also for us to convey to the market we are committed to China for the long term. China is huge from a supply chain for us."

Midha dismissed any concerns over the company being targeted by the US government's surveillance programs.

Midha added Dell's consistent delivery to the market is unlike competitors, who he said are mostly "splitting or rethinking" their strategies, alluding to the likes of HP that decided to split its business in to two: One company focused on enterprise IT, and the other on PCs and printers.

"We feel that hardware continues to play a very important role; software is becoming more important, and that's where our whole strategy of moving from a hardware to end to end solutions provider is being put into place," he said.

"The key piece for the strategy is that it hasn't changed. It's still continuing to be the same, and that's a good thing given all of our competitors are changing their strategy, changing their organisation, changing their commitment to the market, so we feel the consistency of our strategy, consistency of our management, consistency of our engagement with customers puts us actually way ahead of time.

"Today we don't have to change much; we're still consistent and continuing with that."

Midha boasted that, for instance, "transform" has been helping companies adopt a hybrid cloud model, including assisting customers build a private cloud and leverage public cloud. He said that not only has it helped customers improve cost structures, but efficiency levels have "significantly" improved by more than 20 percent.

But Dell isn't the only firm out there transforming into an end to end solutions provider. HP and Lenovo have been making similar changes. So what sets Dell apart? Midha argued unlike other providers, Dell is focused on providing customers with customised options, rather than just offering them a one-size-fits-all solution.

"Every other provided architecture that had made you bleed through your nose over the years is not cloud-ready. I will argue that because cloud basically has to bring efficiency, has to move the workload from any place to any place, and it has to be in your control and highly secure," he said.

"If you're putting in a very expensive mainframe infrastructure to do X that is clearly not enabled from the cloud perspective; that's why I think our intention is very much customer aligned. Our strategic vision is such that it is future ready, and we have a strong momentum behind us from a business perspective."

Dell Australia and New Zealand managing director Angela Fox said what sets Dell apart from competitors is the company's ability to be scalable, no matter how large or small the customer. She said, for instance, when it comes to the integration of authentication levels, customers would have the choice of drawing from different aspects of Dell's software management portfolio.

"We don't take the approach where we walk into an organisation, and say 'Here's our identity and access solution, take the lot or there's no engagement'. We've got the ability through feature sets and tool sets, and we've acquired that through the likes of Quest where we can go in -- and it could be as simple as changing audit -- to give customers privilege access management."

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